As End of Session Nears, Louisiana Lawmakers Propose Controversial LGBTQ+-Related Bills

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As Louisiana’s legislative session nears adjournment, lawmakers in the Republican-dominated legislature have pushed forward controversial LGBTQ+-related bills, including promoting a resurrected ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth on Friday.

Although the state Constitution requires lawmakers to focus on tax and budget issues this session, several bills that opponents say target the LGBTQ+ community — similar to GOP-drafted legislation passed in the State houses across the country this legislative season — have become a contentious part of this year’s debates over the cultural divide in the Louisiana Capitol.

A bill, which has received national and national attention, would ban hormone treatments, gender-affirming surgery and puberty-blocking drugs for transgender minors in Louisiana. So far, at least 18 states have enacted laws restricting or prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors, and the three states bordering Louisiana have enacted bans or are in the process of doing so.

The Louisiana bill was killed last week by a Senate committee – after nearly three hours of testimony and a deciding vote, in which veteran Republican Senator Fred Mills was the tiebreaker. After mounting pressure from Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is running for GOP governorship this year, and the Louisiana Republican Party, the Senate — in a rare procedural move — voted to send the controversial bill to another committee, giving him a second chance at life.

The revived bill was unanimously approved in a brief six-minute Senate Judiciary Committee A hearing on Friday. The three Democratic MPs were conspicuously absent.

The proposed ban still needs to be debated in the Senate, where it is likely to be approved, and then returned to the House due to an amendment that pushes back the effective date to January 1, 2024.

If that happens, the measure would be sent to the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who opposes it. Edwards did not say whether he would veto the bill. But if he does, lawmakers could call a veto session to try to overturn the Democrat’s decision.

Opponents of the ban argue that gender-affirming care, which is backed by all major medical organizations, can save the life of someone with gender dysphoria – a distress related to gender identity that does not correspond to the sex assigned to a person. LGBTQ+ community advocates fear that without care, transgender children face particularly increased risks for stress, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Proponents of the legislation argue that the proposed bans would protect children from life-changing medical procedures until they are mature enough to make such serious decisions.

Slated for debate and final review is a bill that would require public libraries to create a card system that would prevent children from viewing “sexually explicit material” unless they have parental approval. The legislation would also allow parents to bring books they deem unsuitable to a local council for material review.

Republicans, including Landry who is a strong supporter of the bill, argue that the legislation restricting access to certain content is not intended to target the LGBTQ+ community, but rather to protect children from accessing inappropriate material and strengthen parental rights. Across the aisle, however, naysayers say this is another attack on the existence of the community and addresses a problem that is not an immediate problem and could lead to censorship.

From Florida to North Dakota, bills to ban certain books, facilitate protest literature or limit minors’ access to material are being debated.

Earlier this week, lawmakers introduced a bill that would broadly ban K-12 public school employees in Louisiana from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. The bill, which critics call “Don’t Say Gay”, will be debated in the Senate.

A similar measure, which would require teachers to use the pronouns and name that match the student’s gender assigned at birth, also moved forward in the final pass. Under the law, a parent can give written consent to do otherwise. However, a teacher can overrule the parent’s request if it goes against their own religious or moral values.

Lawmakers must adjourn the 2023 legislative session no later than Thursday evening.

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